Is lying on a beach and splashing around in the shallows too tame for you? Would you rather feel your heart thumping in your chest and the wind rushing past your face? Well, prepare to discover a very different side to Greece.
Unpaved roads of varying levels of difficulty link wild mountains and isolated villages. And all around the country are dense forests, dramatic gorges, cloud-shrouded peaks and lakes and rivers of staggering beauty. What better setting for your adrenaline rush?
Off-road holidays in Greece
Even in the most isolated places, you’ll find locals willing to offer directions, treats and even hospitality in their homes. Discover the treasures of the Greek countryside along the forest roads in regions and mountains such as Agrafa, Evrytania, Parnonas, Taygetos, Parnassos, Olympus, Zagori and northern Pelion. The landscape of so many islands (notable Crete) was made for adventure!
The tracks that cut through mountain forests and bare rock lead to less well-known parts of Greece worth venturing into. They pass through traditional villages and over centuries-old stone bridges, jewels of folk architecture, by medieval castles and ruined forts, bringing you the seemingly endless joy of new discoveries with every twist and turn.
The off-road routes are not as difficult as those of South America or Asia, but both the scenery and feelings of achievement are just as powerful. Another plus is the people you’ll meet. Even in the most secluded mountain villages, you’re bound to find open hearts and welcoming smiles, not to mention a cafe or taverna where you’ll be treated to authentic local cuisine.
There are hundreds of off-road routes in Greece. Here are some of the most impressive and less well-known:
1. Crossing the Agrafa mountains: Majestic mountains loom over you as you drive along the Agrafiotis River in a region with fewer than 10km of tarmac. The mountain passes, such as Tria Synora, between Petrilia and Trovato, are particularly difficult in winter and the entire road network in the Agrafa requires a vehicle with high clearance, heavy-duty tyres and a driver both brave and talented.
2. Verdant Parnon: One of the best routes on this mountain starts from the heart of Parnon, at Kosmas, and heads towards Prastos, passing through villages engulfed by fir trees and forgotten by time, where you can explore the history and culture of the region.
3. Evrytania from above: Sela - Fithakia - Ag Vlaherna: Discover charming and isolated stone villages flanked by rushing streams and a stunning lake playing hide and seek throughout the drive. This is the alternative Evrytania, far from the popular ski centres and urbanised towns.
4. Asterousia, Crete: Ahentrias - Maridaki - Ethia: An attractive circular 30km route in the eastern part of the Asterousia range. It is relatively easy, in the summer and early autumn at least, though the locals may tell you differently. At the highest parts of the drive, the views of the mountain and the sea far below are so stunning you may think you’re flying!
Rally racing in Greece
Greece may not have a long tradition in rally racing, but it does have spectacular scenery and dirt roads that test your nerve and resilience to the limit, whatever you might be driving. Imagine the level of difficulty when even the fans struggle to reach the locations from where they can view the action. It’s an on-the-edge, exhilarating pursuit we’re dealing with here!
The World Rally Championship is over 50 years old and it attracts the best drivers and manufacturers from around the world. In early June, the mountains of southern Greece echo to the sound of engines revving and exhausts backfiring above the trilling of birds and the babble of freshwater brooks. The beefed-up cars begin their arduous trek from beneath the sacred rock of the Acropolis in what is widely considered to be the toughest rally in the championship.
Thousands of Greeks and foreign visitors scramble to watch even a single special stage in the hope of catching a glimpse of their favourites among the world’s best drivers as they roar by, ascending steep rocky hills and taking hairpin bends at what seem like impossible speeds. The spectacle of the cars pushing the limits of what is humanly and mechanically feasible is truly impressive and, of course, a great excuse for an excursion.
Other motor races in Greece (Paladio, Mavro Rodou etc) are mostly local in character, led by the annual rally of the Thessaloniki International Exhibition which garners some participation from the Balkans.
Apart from rally racing, Greece hosts some tarmac ascents (Ritsonas, Portarias etc) and some speed racing at the small circuits of Serres and Megara and at Tripoli Air Base.
Skydiving in Greece
Skydiving in Greece is all about the wild beauty of the landscape rushing towards you at terminal velocity. There are numerous special Drop Zones around the country. The Hellenic Airsports Federation – a member of the FAI (Federation Aeronautique Internationale), Europe Air Sports, the European Microlight Federation and of the European Gliding Union – recommends official skydiving schools approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. They are located in Megara, Thessaloniki, Lamia, Thiva and on Crete.
If you’re a beginner, there are seminars offered by experienced and certified Greek instructors. And if you’re used to jumping out of planes, then you will be provided with the aircraft and equipment – the latest chutes, suit, goggles and helmet. The annual National Skydiving Championship is held every September.